Creative Christmas: game of the year

It’s the final day of the Creative Christmas collaboration, where a group of bloggers have joined forces over the past two weeks to tackle 12 video-game-related questions based around a loose festive storyline. After yesterday’s answer about our gaming resolutions for 2018, the last challenge is:

You wake up the following morning, hungover but happy – you have an entire day of gaming ahead of you. You start thinking back over the video games you played during 2017; what was your game of the year?


My answer

The ‘game of the year’ question is one I always struggle with. There are so many great titles which offer unique experiences and that makes it hard to pick a single entry out of those I’ve played; and with adult responsibilities often getting in the way of gaming, I tend not to play new games immediately upon release.

This post therefore won’t be about an individual title or even ones which were released during 2017. But here are five games which stood out for me for various reasons over the past 12 months and are well worth a play.

Most touching: The Last Guardian

The Last Guardian was criticised for its poor controls and camera angles, and I agree: it was extremely annoying when you needed Trico’s help to reach a ledge and all he wanted to do was clean his feathers. But at the same time, it created one of the most believable bonds between a human and animal within a video game. The relationship between the creature and boy strengthens over the course of the title and is a lesson in trust.

Most addictive: The Elder Scrolls Online

I decided to pick this one up on a whim after not touching it since 2015 and I’m addicted all over again. TESO contains so much lore and the books scattered around the environment create a world which feels living, with its own history and colour; and when you’re tired of venturing into dungeons and slaying the monsters within, you can head in any direction and just run. You never know what you’re going to find.

Most unique: Stories Untold

Advertised as ‘four stories, one nightmare’, this experimental title manages to create something new and unique. It cleverly combines text-adventures, point-and-clicks and psychological horrors into a rather remarkable experience which is likely to stay with me for some time to come. If you’re a fan of series such as The Twilight Zone and Stranger Things, of 80s nostalgia and retro games, or text adventures in general, you need to play it.

Most reflective: Undertale

I was very late to the party: Undertale was released in September 2015 yet I only ended up playing in at the end of 2017, and I’m so glad I finally did. The retro graphics hide an innovative title which on one hand is hilarious and on the other is incredibly heartfelt. It contains numerous moments which cause the player to reflect on their choices and their own nature in a subtle way – something rare in video games and all the more sincere for it.

Most stylish: Horizon Zero Dawn

Aloy became one of my favourite protagonists this year. I should hate her for that makeup-that-looks-like-no-makeup thing she has going on and her ability to come out of any scenario with an immaculate appearance. But I just can’t; her attitude and independence make her one of the most likeable characters. I’m looking forward to picking up The Frozen Wilds DLC in the near future and spending even more time in photo mode.

Other answers

🎁   Thero159 from A Reluctant Hero
👪   Joey from AlunaRL
🎅   Athena from AmbiGaming
🦌   Morgan from Fistful of Glitter
🎄   Luna from GamersUnitedGG Blog
👗   Log 1932
🤞   NekoJonez from NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog
🎉   Dan and Jon from nowisgames.com
🎁   Chris from OverThinker Y
👪   Austin from Reaper Interactive
🎅   Retro Redress
🎄   The Gaming Diaries
🦃   Kevin from The Mental Attic
👗   The Shameful Narcissist Speaks

This post sees the end of the Creative Christmas collaboration – who knows, maybe it will be back again in December! A huge thank you to the amazing bloggers who joined in and to the awesome readers to read our answers to the questions. May 2018 be good to you all.

Creative Christmas: a resolution

It’s day 11 of the Creative Christmas collaboration, where a group of bloggers come together to tackle 12 video-game-related questions based around a festive storyline. Following on from yesterday’s answer about the character you’d borrow a party outfit from, the next question is:

Midnight eventually rolls around, which means it’s now time to pick a New Year gaming resolution to see you through the next 12 months. What’s your choice for 2018?


My answer

Last January, shortly after the beginning of Later Levels, I wrote a post about my New Year’s resolution to play more video games in 2017. It’s obvious I failed looking back on it now: I only ended up picking up one of the ten titles I listed that that article and seven are still sitting somewhere on my wishlist (with two being pushed back and not yet released).

While ‘playing more games’ is a worthy declaration, it’s not one which is easily achievable when you’re an adult. My other-half and I are still in the middle of house renovations, our work hours have been ridiculous lately and my stepson keeps us busy on the weekends. But the three of us enjoy gaming together and that’s not something I see changing any time soon, so perhaps I need to adjust the angle for my 2018 resolutions.

  • Make more time for gaming: While it’s not always possible to play something every day due to work or family commitments, sometimes it’s ourselves who are the barrier to our hobby. We all have those times where we just want to collapse on the sofa in front of trashy television after a long day; but I think I need to make more of a conscious effort to turn on the PlayStation or PC when I have a free hour.

  • Play a variety of games: Regular visitors will know that I’m a huge fan of the adventure genre, but I tried to expand my horizons in 2017. I played a wider variety of games than ever before and even picked up a few titles I could have never seen myself touching previously. This is something I’d like to continue into the next 12 months and the following resolution should help with this.

  • Go to more gaming events: Now that Ethan is ten, it’s a lot easier for Pete and me to attend expos because he’s old enough to come with us. We managed to get to eight gaming events last year and it would be great to visit them all again – plus a few more if possible. The first one up in 2018 is the PC Gamer Weekender in February and then we’ll be taking part in GameBlast18 the following month.

  • Those are my gaming resolutions for 2018 and with any luck, I’ll have a better shot at reaching them than the one set last January. I’m going to take this opportunity to note some for blogging here also as a way of keeping myself focused, so here’s what I’m going to attempt to achieve this year in terms of the site and WordPress community:

  • Be more involved: The area in which I’ve fallen recently is keeping up with comments and reading others’ posts because work has taken up such a huge chunk of my time. However, it’s possibly the most important part of blogging and I realise I need to place more focus on it. I’m going to do my bit as a member of the community and pay attention to the wonderful things the writers around me are creating.

  • Try different post styles: Getting involved with community events such as the Blogger Blitz hosted by Adventure Rules has inspired me to be more creative with my posts. I’d never have thought of writing a sea-shanty about Monkey Island previously, or a creating a cheesy advert for Community and Collaboration for example. Look out for more weird and wonderful things over the coming year.

  • Stop using exclamations: When I read posts published at the start of Later Levels, I realise how far my writing has come. I’m never going to be the world’s best writer but it’s something I enjoy doing and if I can see an improvement over time, then that’s a bonus. However, I really do need to stop using exclamation marks so liberally and particularly when it comes to leaving or responding to comments.

  • Hopefully I’ll be able to read this post in January 2019 and feel as though I’ve managed to achieve at least some of these declarations, if not all. Whatever your resolutions are and whatever you’re up to this evening, I hope you have a wonderful New Year’s Eve.

    Other answers

    🎁   Thero159 from A Reluctant Hero
    🎅   Athena from AmbiGaming
    🦌   Morgan from Fistful of Glitter
    🎄   Luna from GamersUnitedGG Blog
    👗   Log 1932
    🤞   NekoJonez from NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog
    🎉   Dan and Jon from nowisgames.com
    🎁   Chris from OverThinker Y
    👪   Austin from Reaper Interactive
    🎅   Retro Redress
    🎶   Pix1001 from Shoot the Rookie
    ❤   Brandon from That Green Dude
    🎄   The Gaming Diaries
    🦃   Kevin from The Mental Attic
    👗   The Shameful Narcissist Speaks

    The Creative Christmas collaboration is open to everyone and further details can be found in this post if you’d like to join in! Tomorrow’s question: You wake up the following morning, hungover but happy – you have an entire day of gaming ahead of you. You start thinking back over the video games you played during 2017; what was your game of the year?

    Creative Christmas: borrowed outfit

    The Creative Christmas collaboration is still going strong, and our group of bloggers is almost at the end of 12 video-game-related questions based around a festive storyline. After answering yesterday’s challenge about the perfect games for winter, here’s what we’re up against next:

    You’ve been invited to a swanky New Year’s Eve party but have nothing suitable to wear! Which video game character do you call to ask if you can borrow an outfit?


    My answer

    Most video game characters are more concerned with saving the world than whether their shoes match their outfit perfectly. But certain protagonists have a sense of style to die for and really know how to work their attire on the digital catwalk. Perhaps they’ll be able to give me some sound fashion advice when it comes to creating an ensemble fit for a glamorous New Year’s Eve party.

    However, it can be somewhat difficult as a female in the gaming world when it comes to costume choices. Barely-there bikinis, buttless-chaps and six-inch heels aren’t garments particularly suitable for winter; and some of the flimsy armour on display is just downright ludicrous. That being said though, there are a few characters I wouldn’t mind raiding the wardrobes of.

    Horizon Zero Dawn, video game, female, woman, character, warrior, mountain, view

    Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn is right at the top of the list if we’re going for practicality: warm furs will protect against the cold December weather and flat footwear means no staggering in stilettos at midnight. She can take all that Mother’s Heart throws as her and her gorgeous, thick hair still looks as though she just stepped out of a L’Oreal advert. And damn, this is one girl who knows how to strike a pose.

    The Curse of Monkey Island, video game, female, pirate, Elaine Marley, gun

    If it’s a costume party we’re going to, there’s only one lady whose wardrobe is worthy enough: Elaine Marley from the Monkey Island series. A buccaneers’ outfit is a classic yet elegant choice for a fancy-dress event and the perfect excuse to drink grog all evening. This is a governess who isn’t afraid to kick some zombie ghost butt and keep wannabe pirates in check – and look absolutely fierce while doing so.

    Broken Age, video game, Vella Tartine, female, bird, knife, flyring

    But if it’s a classy event we’re attending, we’re better off turning to creative Vella Tartine from Broken Age. No, not for that hideous ballgown with ‘Up for Grabs’ emblazoned across the arse which she wore during the Maiden’s Feast; I’m talking that slinky little number she sliced it into when escaping from Mog Chothra! Pink may not be my colour but even I’d be happy to rock this look at a swanky cocktail party.

    Dreamfall Chapters, video game, Storytime, female, Zoe Castillo

    If the New Year’s Eve party is taking place in a trendy bar, maybe Zoë from The Longest Journey series could give us a hand when it comes to fashion. She sports several outfits through the games and always manages to look stylish but without trying too hard. I absolutely love her hair when she goes for a shorter style and would seriously consider getting something like this in real life myself…

    Kathy Rain, video game, female, girl, Kathy, cemetery

    Speaking of ‘real life’, maybe that’s the best option in this case: go for something similar to your own tastes so you feel comfortable. Kathy from Kathy Rain would be the person to help me out here because you can’t go wrong with jeans, a leather jacket and a pair of boots. Team with a t-shirt featuring your favourite video game and you’re ready to party the night away.

    Other answers

    🎁   Thero159 from A Reluctant Hero
    🎅   Athena from AmbiGaming
    🦌   Morgan from Fistful of Glitter
    🎄   Luna from GamersUnitedGG Blog
    🎮   LightningEllen from LightningEllen’s Release
    🤞   NekoJonez from NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog
    🎉   Dan and Jon from nowisgames.com
    🎁   Chris from OverThinker Y
    🎅   Retro Redress
    🎶   Pix1001 from Shoot the Rookie
    ❤   Brandon from That Green Dude
    🎄   The Gaming Diaries
    🦃   Kevin from The Mental Attic
    👗   The Shameful Narcissist Speaks

    The Creative Christmas collaboration is open to everyone and further details can be found in this post if you’d like to join in! Tomorrow’s question: Midnight eventually rolls around, which means it’s now time to pick a New Year gaming resolution to see you through the next 12 months. What’s your choice for 2018?

    Creative Christmas: winter gaming

    Welcome back to day nine of the Creative Christmas collaboration, where a group of bloggers are joining forces to tackle 12 video-game-related questions based around a loose festive storyline. Following on from yesterday’s answer about a Christmas feast made only from gaming food items, the next one we’re facing is:

    The presents have been opened and dinner has been eaten, so you’ve got a bit of time for gaming while Gran is snoozing on the sofa. What’s the best video game to play during the holidays?


    My answer

    There’s something about Christmas which gets everyone nostalgic and that’s exactly what I like from my video games at this time of year. I always seem to return to titles I’ve played before: games which are familiar and bring back good memories while I’m cosied up on the sofa with a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie or two. It beats watching the Queen’s speech any day (apologies, Your Majesty).

    The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim usually comes somewhere near the top of the list, although in recent years this is slowly starting to be replaced by The Elder Scrolls Online thanks to my addition. There’s no better place to be on a cold winter’s day than in front of a blazing fire at an inn with a bard and tankard of mead nearby. Here are games which can hold you in their world for hours on end and see you right the way through the holidays.

    A fantasy fairy-tale vibe fits in so well at Christmas time and that’s one of the reasons why I like to play Fable. I know it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but this title is one of my favourites: it’s full of magic and secrets, with tongue-in-cheek characters and a Monty-Python-esque sense of humour which remind me of a pantomime. You can dive straight into Fable II after the first instalment (but let’s not talk about Fable III).

    And of course, there’s always my favourite wannabe pirate. I played The Secret of Monkey Island as a kid after receiving it as a gift so the nostalgia factor is definitely high with this one. After working my way through the Creative Christmas questions, I’m tempted to start a Monkey Island marathon and replay all five titles yet again; there’s just something about telling buccaneers they fight like cows which puts me in the festive spirit.

    Then what about the annual Steam sale? I must admit, these haven’t seemed as good in recent years; but it’s still impossible not to make at least one purchase and add more to your backlog. There are still titles sitting in my library which were bought last year and haven’t been played… yet it wouldn’t be Christmas without this gaming tradition.

    Other answers

    🎁   Thero159 from A Reluctant Hero
    👪   Joey from AlunaRL
    🎅   Athena from AmbiGaming
    ❤   ClanGeek
    🦌   Morgan from Fistful of Glitter
    🎄   Luna from GamersUnitedGG Blog
    🎮   LightningEllen from LightningEllen’s Release
    🤞   NekoJonez from NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog
    🎉   Dan and Jon from nowisgames.com
    🎁   Chris from OverThinker Y
    👪   Austin from Reaper Interactive
    🎅   Retro Redress
    🎄   The Gaming Diaries
    🦃   Kevin from The Mental Attic

    The Creative Christmas collaboration is open to everyone and further details can be found in this post if you’d like to join in! Tomorrow’s question: You’ve been invited to a swanky New Year’s Eve party but have nothing suitable to wear! Which video game character do you call to ask if you can borrow an outfit?

    Creative Christmas: let’s eat

    It’s day eight of the Creative Christmas collaboration, where a group of bloggers are joining forces to tackle 12 video-game-related questions all based around a loose festive storyline. Following on from yesterday’s entry about the perfect Christmas present, the next we’re facing is:

    It’s now time to head out to the kitchen to put on your oven gloves and start preparing Christmas dinner. It consists solely of video game food; what’s on the menu?



    Kim’s Kitchen

    Hors D’oeuvres

    Crunchy Chicks, courtesy of Fable
    The perfect amuse-bouche for the evil among us: a perfectly-seasoned feathery morsel, with a chicken after-taste and beak garnish.

    or

    Holy Tofu, courtesy of Fable
    For those watching their waistlines (and alignment), a block of coagulated bean curd pressed in holy water with an extremely subtle flavour.

    Appetiser

    Vegetable Soup, courtesy of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
    Restore both your health and stamina with this warming soup, full of healthy seasonal vegetables. A classic Dark Brotherhood favourite.

    Fish course

    Hearty Salmon Meunière, courtesy of Breath of the Wild
    Perfectly-pink and crispy-skinned, a fillet of salmon with a texture in a class of its own. Recommended by a famous green-suited hero and talented blogger.

    Main course

    Wall Turkey (and all the trimmings), courtesy of Castlevania
    The star of any Christmas feast: a roasted bird served in the traditional manner. Accompanied by Floor Potatoes, Window Vegetables, Door Stuffing and Ceiling Gravy.

    Dessert

    Butterscotch-Cinnamon Pie, courtesy of Undertale
    Decorated with dog-prints, the perfect dessert for determined heroes who can’t decide whether they prefer butterscotch or cinnamon.

    Cheese course

    Hidden Cheese, courtesy of Perfect Dark
    A triangular selection of cheeses from all over the world, including the windowsill and behind a door. Served with biscuits and grapes.

    Drinks

    Grog, courtesy of The Secret of Monkey Island
    One of the most caustic and volatile substances known to man, a popular pirate pick-me-up created from kerosene, battery acid, rum and pepperoni.

    or

    Root Beer, courtesy of The Secret of Monkey Island
    For the designated drivers and sailors of the evening, a sparkling non-alcoholic beverage to wash down all that festive food and fend off zombie ghost pirates.


    Other answers

    🎁   Thero159 from A Reluctant Hero
    🎅   Athena from AmbiGaming
    🦌   Morgan from Fistful of Glitter
    🎄   Luna from GamersUnitedGG Blog
    🎮   LightningEllen from LightningEllen’s Release
    👗   Log 1932
    🤞   NekoJonez from NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog
    🎉   Dan and Jon from nowisgames.com
    🎁   Chris from OverThinker Y
    🎅   Retro Redress
    🎶   Pix1001 from Shoot the Rookie
    ❤   Brandon from That Green Dude
    🎄   The Gaming Diaries
    🦃   Kevin from The Mental Attic
    🎮   The Optimistic Gamer

    The Creative Christmas collaboration is open to everyone and further details can be found in this post if you’d like to join in! Tomorrow’s question: The presents have been opened and dinner has been eaten, so you’ve got a bit of time for gaming while Gran is snoozing on the sofa. What’s the best video game to play during the holidays?

    Creative Christmas: perfect presents

    We’re now over halfway through the Creative Christmas collaboration, where a group of bloggers are joining forces to tackle 12 video-game-related questions all based around a loose festive storyline. Yesterday’s entry was all about helping Santa out with his deliveries; and today we’re looking at:

    Your help must have worked, because it’s now Christmas morning and presents are under the tree! There’s a fancy box with your name on it; which gaming-related item are you hoping is inside?


    My answer

    Ask any gamer, and I’m sure they can come up with at least ten items they’d be pleased to receive on Christmas day. From a special edition of the latest release, to a new customised controller, to video game merchandise: companies have cottoned onto the fact we’re a lucrative market and there are so many products out there made to appeal to us.

    That makes narrowing down the answer to today’s challenge to one item incredibly difficult. There are lots of things I’d like to receive as a gift; I managed to name 12 without a struggle in a post last month which covered a range of gaming aspects and various price brackets. But is there anything I truly want? Now that’s a much harder question to tackle.

    EGX, event, video games, Figment, Kim

    Life this year has had its ups and downs but overall I can’t complain. My dad’s health issues at the beginning of 2017 were cause for concern and I’ve been having some doubts recently about my line of work; then on the flipside, our new house became a home and my younger brother married his lovely lady. I’ve also played some great video games, attended even more expos, met a group of amazing bloggers and developers, and had the opportunity to be involved in a number of interesting collaborations.

    And that’s all in Later Levels’ first year so what more could I want? I realise how lucky I am and if the next 12 months were to continue in the same way, you wouldn’t hear any complaints from me at all. So whatever is waiting in that fancy box under the tree – whether it’s the latest realise, a new controller, video game merch or something else entirely – I’d be a very grateful woman indeed.

    I guess the only thing I could wish for is more time to play video games as adult responsibilities often seem to get in the way. But that’s probably something a lot of ‘older’ gamers would say and unfortunately not something easily granted! And if we’re staying on the theme of unrealistic presents, an invitation to lunch with Peter Molyneux following on from March’s post on the subject would also be much appreciated… so Peter, if you’re reading this…

    Other answers

    🎁   Thero159 from A Reluctant Hero
    👪   Joey from AlunaRL
    🎅   Athena from AmbiGaming
    🎄   Luna from GamersUnitedGG Blog
    🎮   LightningEllen from LightningEllen’s Release
    🤞   NekoJonez from NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog
    🎉   Dan and Jon from nowisgames.com
    🎁   Chris from OverThinker Y
    👪   Austin from Reaper Interactive
    🎅   Retro Redress
    ❤   Brandon from That Green Dude
    🦌   The Dragon’s Tea Party
    🎄   The Gaming Diaries
    🦃   Kevin from The Mental Attic
    🎮   The Optimistic Gamer
    👗   The Shameful Narcissist Speaks

    The Creative Christmas collaboration is open to everyone and further details can be found in this post if you’d like to join in! Tomorrow’s question: It’s now time to head out to the kitchen to put on your oven gloves and start preparing Christmas dinner. It consists solely of video game food; what’s on the menu?